As I’ve written a few times, I don’t get American Idol [in Mexico] until about a week after it airs in the U.S., so I only watch the performances [online] and none of the judges’ comments. A week later, I watch the whole show. During my initial viewings, after writing about what I saw, I often read online what the judges said and find I rarely agree with them.
But this show brought a few surprises for me. By this time in the competition, they’ve gotten rid of the bad, the mediocre, the preachy and the ones unwilling to grow. The four left are definitely good and have delivered fine performances, and even a couple of great ones (*cough* Haley *cough*). So as some people say, “the game is on.”
This week there were two rounds with two themes. For round one, they performed “Songs That Inspire,” and this is how it went:
James Durbin opened with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Blame my uncle, but I love Journey and I love the song. I enjoy Glee and LOVED The Sopranos, so what’s not to like when that song is treated with respect? It was very well done and, unlike last week, James was on pitch the whole time and his vocals were very clean. The only turnoff was that he didn’t add much to the song, so it felt unoriginal and a little karaoke, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this case.
Next was Haley Reinhart channeling Michael Jackson. “Earth Song” is a great song and there was nothing that Haley could do wrong with it. It was very well done and filled with emotion while she stayed on pitch. Mr. Dawg & La Lopez told her that the song didn’t fit her and that she shouted. I call it BS! She overgrowled (if that’s a word), not yelled. I know Randy has a very limited vocabulary but I think that’s too much. And yes, the song didn’t quite fit her but she was limited by a theme that asked for a specific feel, so she couldn’t parade sexily or lament angrily—which is more her niche. Anyway, she sang nice, and the gospel choir definitely gave the performance extra feeling.
When I heard Scotty McCreery singing Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” I started yawning. I became very angry, well after having a whole mug of coffee (my Don Quijote mug can hold about 500 ml, so you can guess how hard it was for me to wake up after the performance). I agree that Scotty has been somewhat consistent, he’s never actually botched a performance, he has a very mature voice and marketable singing style, but he has never really given a good show. Not once has he stretched himself, not once has he tried something different, and not once have the so-called judges told him that he’s always played it safe. According to many critics he’s the frontrunner and he’s never thrilled the audience enough. If he wins, he will be competing for the lamest winner ever. I do like his voice—I actually like it very much—but I’m bored of watching him.
Lauren Alaina then sang Martina McBride’s “Anyway” and for the first time, she showed some sort of connection to the material! Not only was the pitch and arrangement perfect for her, but it felt like she understood what she was singing about. I’m not quite buying this pseudo-growth shtick the producers are trying to sell just yet, but I do see a little improvement in her. I mean, she’s just very young. What she needs is not to perform songs too mature for her and start belting age-appropiate songs and she’ll find her connection. “Anyway” was the perfect case.
So those were the pseudo-inspiring songs. I call Lauren a questionable round one winner.
For the second part, the performance order and the theme changed. Now it was time for the Leiber & Stoller songbook. And the guest mentor is Lady Gaga but…why is she trying to channel Billy the Puppet?
The first one was Haley with a fantastic rendition of “I (Who Have Nothing).” I’ll say it: My favorite growler could never match the raw anguish Jordin Sparks brought to the song when she performed it during her season 6 run. Haley changed it into some sort of stalker plea. And it sold. It wasn’t as amazing as her “House of the Rising Sun” last week (I doubt anyone can match it now), but it was great nonetheless. And I got angry again when I read the judges’ comments. I sort of understand why they are so unfairly
hard on her if they’re pushing her toward brilliance, but what I’m missing is why they don’t do it to the others. They deserve constructive criticism too! That’s the point of them folks being there! Anyway, Haley should be in the top three just for her lungs alone. That girl can hold a note!
I’m changing Scotty McCheesy’s nickname to Scotty McCreepy. He sang “Young Blood” and trotted around the stage like a drunken monkey trying to be sexy. I gagged, then got goosebumps (not the good kind) and then wanted to barf. The cheese factor was so over the top that it became completely uncomfortable. The whole visual was completely wrong. I listened to him again without the visual and noticed the vocals were nice and his lower register was on fire. It wasn’t superb and the visual part almost made me want to tear my eyes out, but he’s still consistent. The judges had cheese-gasms, though.
If singing Elvis Presley was the only chance we saw Lauren, I’d say she should be in “Trouble.” She wasn’t bad, though she lost her breath in a couple of verses, but it was pretty underwhelming. I agree she has the IT factor, but she hasn’t found IT. She does look more comfortable on stage than she has in weeks past, but she doesn’t know yet how to match her body movements with the song. I think “Trouble” should be sung by a girl in a more teasing and sexy kind of way and she’s too young for that! I often ask myself about the people behind her: Are they trying to screw up this girl’s teenage years, or are they really clueless about what to advise her?
Closing the show was James Durbin. I wonder why is he both opening and closing the show. His song choice was “Love Potion No. 9” and, yet again, it was nice. He missed a few notes here and there but I was feeling quite pleased with the arrangement and the performance until the very end. During the final notes, twice he stopped singing and the band quit playing for him to grasp the audience’s love for him. If it didn’t make me laugh I would’ve gotten angry at that. The way he did it was overconfident and just too much, which made me uncomfortable, and he looked the most like Sloth from The Goonies. I know I’ve teased about that a few times, but this time the resemblance was uncanny!
And so, round two ends with a definite win for Haley. If it was my choice I’d send Scotty home. If you had asked me last week, I would’ve said Lauren had the toughest chance, but I think she might grab a few votes [this week] for her “Anyway,” if “Trouble” didn’t hurt her that much.
Who do you think will make the top three?
Photo: Michael Becker/FOX